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Michael Morse is eligible to return from the DL as soon as April 10.
Both transactions, revealed by manager Davey Johnson to reporters before today's Grapefruit League finale in Fort Myers, Fla., had become increasingly plausible over the last week. Neither Morse (suffering from a strained lat muscle) nor Ankiel (tight quadriceps muscle) is expected to miss much time.
The Nationals will be able to backdate Morse's DL move to March 26 and Ankiel's DL move to March 28. That means Morse will be eligible to return as soon as April 10, Ankiel as soon as April 12.
With both players unable to play on Opening Day, the Nationals have finalized all but one spot on their 25-man roster. Veteran Mark DeRosa is expected to start in left field Thursday against the Cubs, with Roger Bernadina in center field (though Bernadina had to be removed from today's game after getting hit in the leg with an errant pickoff throw).
That would leave the Nationals' five-man bench as: catcher Jesus Flores, infielder Steve Lombardozzi, outfielders Brett Carroll and Xavier Nady and corner infielder Chad Tracy.
Though he won't miss considerable time, Morse will be missed in the heart of the Nationals' lineup. The club's de facto MVP last season when he hit .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI, Morse appeared in only three Grapefruit League games after suffering the injury to the back of his right shoulder.
After undergoing a variety of treatments -- including the recently developed platelet-rich plasma injection -- Morse was cleared to resume baseball activities last week. He'll come north with the club following today's game, then likely begin a brief rehab assignment with Class AA Harrisburg (which opens its season Thursday in Bowie).
Ankiel is expected to join Morse in Bowie after spending much of the last month dealing with lingering tightness in his left quadriceps muscle. The veteran center fielder played as recently as March 27 but had to come out of that game early when the injury acted up again.
Along with Morse and Ankiel, four other players are expected to open the season on the DL: right-handers Drew Storen (elbow inflammation), Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring strain) and Cole Kimball (shoulder surgery) and first baseman Chris Marrero (hamstring surgery). Kimball and Marrero will go on the 60-day DL.
Storen's trip to the DL leaves one remaining spot in the Nationals' bullpen up for grabs between a trio of right-handers: Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen and Chad Durbin. Johnson has suggested for the last week that Mattheus stood the best chance of making the club, though all three have pitched well this spring.
Mattheus and Stammen also have options and could be sent to Class AAA Syracuse without passing through waivers. Durbin, who is on a minor-league contract, has an opt-out clause and could become a free agent if he doesn't make the team.